The pageant, which focuses on celebrating women’s intelligence, careers and voluntary work, is part of the International Festival, which runs for a week each August.
Walsh took home the 56th Rose. Her sexuality never came up during the process.
“To me, being gay is normal,” Walsh, who has been openly gay for two years, said. “I told my parents and they were supportive, as I knew they would be.”
Anthony O’Gara, the festival’s executive chairman, said Walsh’s sexuality is just one part of her.
“She is a wonderful person, an attractive, intelligent woman and a very worthy winner who happens to be gay,” he said.
Walsh, a former journalism student, moved to Philadelphia in 2011 and currently works for Anthropologie. O’Gara said he is looking forward to the next year with Walsh, where she will travel the world as an ambassador for the festival and encourage other women to get involved.
“Her sexuality will no doubt create some interest, hopefully all positive,” O’Gara said. “She wants to be celebrated as Maria Walsh in the complete sense of her person and hopefully everyone will respect that.”
Walsh will appear on The Late Late Show September 5.